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Shangri-La joins shark fin ban

Sir Richard Branson speaks at the WildAid conference in Shanghai

 BY RODERICK EIME

Shangri-La Hotels are the next major hotel chain to announce they are to cease serving shark fin in all of its operated restaurants as well as accepting new orders for shark fin products in banqueting with immediate effect as part of its ‘Sustainable Seafood Policy’.

In December 2010 the company initiated the process with the removal of shark fin products from its restaurant menus. The new policy is a continuation of Shangri-La’s journey towards environmental support, which will soon include the phasing out of endangered Bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass across the group’s 72 properties.

Last November, HM reported the announcement by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH), parent company of The Peninsula Hotels, that it will stop serving shark fin at all its group operations, effective 1 January 2012.

It is widely acknowledged that global shark populations are in peril, an imbalance that has disturbing knock-on effects throughout the marine environment.

Sharks are one of the most widely misrepresented animals on the planet. Whether it is the overzealous reporting of ‘shark attacks’ or Hollywood classic films like ‘Jaws’, sharks are in desperate need of some good publicity.

“These are ecosystems that have evolved over millions and millions of years,” says Peter Knights, director of WildAid International, “as soon as you start to take out an important part of it, it’s like a brick wall, you take out bricks [and] eventually it’s going to collapse.”

WildAid’s mission, according to their website, is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.

Shark fin soup is a key reason why one-third of the world’s shark species are now threatened with extinction. Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used every year to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that fetches up to USD$100 per bowl.

While western countries like the USA and Canada have enacted bans on shark fin products, this does not address the international trade, especially in Asia.

With high profile announcements by HSH and Shangri-La (also Hong Kong based) it shows that the message is finally getting out.

According to WildAid, The Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotels’ ban of shark fins exemplifies how businesses can become leaders in conservation, dissuading people from purchasing wildlife products and spreading awareness of the detrimental effects of the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Paired with WildAid’s Chefs Against Shark Fins campaign, and outreach efforts of its celebrity ambassadors, such as Yao Ming and Sir Richard Branson, the support of the hospitality sector can play a major role in halting the rapid decline of threatened shark species and deteriorating marine ecosystems.

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